Yes to Miracles, No to God

Systematic Theology – Authority
Author and Authority
R. J. Rushdoony

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Let us begin with prayer. Oh Lord our God unto whom all glory belongs we come into Thy present again looking for the day when the glory that is Thine shall fill the earth and Thy righteousness cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Make us thine instruments towards this purpose, that we may proclaim Thy word, Thy salvation, Thy justice unto the ends of the earth, and that we might be instrumental in bringing men, woman, children, and nations under the dominion of Christ our Lord. In His name we pray, amen.

We have been dealing with a theology of work and today we begin a study of the doctrine of Authority. The doctrine of authority, and our subject this morning is author and authority. Our text is Hebrews twelve, one and two. The first two verses of Hebrews twelve.

“1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The words author and authority are of course related words. The word author of course comes from the Latin, almost unchanged, and it means to increase or to produce. Its meaning thus is that an author is a creator, an originator, a producer; and an authority is one with the right to command and to exercise dominion, to have jurisdiction. There is however still another word that is commonly used in the New Testament and is translated as author. This particular word appears in Hebrews 12 verse one and two. Here we have a Greek word, not a Latin one which comes from a root archa, as in archangel and it means a prince or a tribal leader. Its root archa means the beginning, or the cause. So the New Testament uses one word from a Latin derivation and another from a Greek derivation and we use these words in the English today. And these word both point to the Creator. 

The basic New Testament word of course is the one used in Hebrews twelve. Thus an author is a creator and an authority is the creator and therefore the one who exercise dominion, makes the law, and has jurisdiction. 

Now religious perspective is always determined by our doctrine of authority. In the Greco-Roman world the autonomous reason of man was the source of authority. So that when we look at Greco-Roman thinking authority is ultimately from man. Thinkers such as Galen, Celsus, Porphyry, and others judged the Bible in terms of their rationalism. In the century before Christ the philosopher of acrecia {?} said, and I quote “nothing can ever be created by divine power out of nothing.” For him all forces in the universe were inherent forces, naturalistic forces, there was no power from beyond nature.

Now this did not mean the Greco-Roman man did not believe in marvels; in things that to us would appear to be supernatural. Their interest however was totally different. They were ready to believe all kinds of marvels could take place because nature had divine power inherent in it. Thus Aristotle was interested in every kind of freakish birth, because that freakish birth could represent the next step in evolution. This is why when Paul at Athens spoke about the doctrine of the resurrection the philosophers were immediately interested because here was a man declaring that somebody had risen from the dead. Their interest was premised in the fact that “maybe this was the next stage in the development of nature, in evolution. And as Van Till noted, and I quote “even among the cultured it was in good style to recognize that there was more in heaven and on earth than they had yet dreamed of in their philosophy, they (the Greco-Romans) believed in the mysterious universe. They were perfectly willing therefore to leave open a place for the unknown, but this unknown must be thought of as the utterly unknowable and indeterminate.” 

In other words they were ready to accept almost any kind of miraculous event provided it could be naturalistically accounted for. This is why when Paul in talking about the Resurrection spoke of God as the source of the power, and God as the judge of all, they immediately said they wanted to hear no more “we’ll listen to you some other time on that.” For them the subject was closed. Had Paul continued to say “this actually happened and there are witnesses, and this is perhaps the next step in evolution, in the development of nature.” The Greek philosophers would no doubt have been ready to appoint a delegation to go to Jerusalem and talk with the surviving people who had been eye witnesses of the resurrection; but not if God had done it. But God of scripture is beyond mans control, this made the God of scripture inacceptable to the Greeks and the Romans. The only Gods they would allow were deified men. They wanted God’s who could be controlled by man and mans reason and were really no more than deified men. Given this premise, their naturalism, they were amazingly gullible. We’ll come to that in a moment.

But for them the miracles of the Bible were very offensive. One verse in scripture at which the critics regularly fought in anger is Luke 18:27 “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” And also “With God all things are possible.” The philosopher Celsus was very upset and outraged by this verse. To him it was the epitome of the absurdity of Christianity, to believe in a power above and beyond nature was intellectually unrespectable, disreputable, and to be avoided. But at the same time they held that to hold that all things are possible with God was bad thinking, they were ready to affirm that all things are possible for nature. 

Let me illustrate what they actually believed in. They believed that men could in time animate the statues of God and effect religious union with them. You all of heard no doubt of the story of Pygmalion, of the statue that was carved by a sculpture and then became animated and a living woman. Now that has deep religious roots. This was believed in; or rather it was a premise of their philosophy. For example Julian the apostate, the Emperor went to study under Maximus of Ephesus, a philosopher. His reason for going there was to study how the powers of nature could be enhanced by the philosopher in order to animate statues and perform all kinds of naturalistic marvels. Well the philosophers did have statues that would have torches in their hands that would burst into flame. They had statues that would talk with hidden mechanisms of course. In fact one such statue at Antioch, the statue of Zeus-Philos or friendly Zeus, issued some very nasty statements about Christians which led to a persecution. 

Now these philosophers believed that the trickery they were indulging in was a kind of prompting to nature. They did not see it as fraud. They believed in theurgy. Theurgy believed that the divinity inherent in nature could be invoked and brought into focus by man. Let me quote the thesis of theurgy. “The divine was invisibly diffused throughout the whole cosmos like a primordial electric wave. The action which succeeded in capturing this wave, that is, whatever induced the divine to reveal itself, was a legitimate theurgic activity”. In effect they were saying “Nature’s charged with all kinds of forces or divine powers, and just as when you get a radio you can hear sound waves that are being sent, so if you get the right combination you can capture those powers that are inherent in nature; and any props they used to capture this divine wave were seen as legitimate, not as trickery. Now this is why the pagan philosophers were so gullible, they did not see nature as fixed, created by God with laws binding it that were God ordained. Therefore they believed all things were possible with nature. Of course there view of nature was humanistic. Man could control nature, therefore if the divine power in the universe is inherent in nature, power is placed in mans hands and proof becomes something that man determines. Mans activities will make things happen.

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Also, from a different source….

When some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Matthew 12:38-42, English Standard Version


Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29, English Standard Version

Authority is not rooted in miracles, even though God may bring forth miracles as a concession to our hardened hearts.

Authority is rooted in righteousness, in obedience to God.

And if you are actually paying attention, you will recognize miracles all around you. From the fact that anything exists, to the wonder of communication at the speed of light, to the birth of a child.

And of course, “The words author and authority are of course related words.” To deny God as Author is to deny God’s Authority…. and this denial (and the substitution of God with the new Source of the Law, the State) is the new core of the West.

The new and rapidly failing core of the sterile, dying, and increasingly feeble West.

But so long as Christians point-plank refuse to take the Authority and Law-Word of Christ seriously, for just that long they will die with their new idol, the State, instead of repenting and living under the Authority of Christ the King.

(Stones into Bread, by the power of inflation, deficit spending and the central bank, isn’t going to cut it. Regardless of what Keynes and his followers wish.)

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